If you find asbestos in your home, it is recommended that you contact a licenced asbestos removalist to advise you on the best course of action. A licenced professional will also dispose of asbestos in accordance with the relevant regulations.
Living in a home with intact asbestos doesn’t necessarily pose a health risk. Most people who suffer asbestos-related health problems are exposed to it over long periods of time, such as workers in factories that produce asbestos products.
But when these materials in your home deteriorate over time, or become disturbed or damaged, asbestos fibres can be released into the air. The fibres are invisible and can stay around your house for years, posing a danger by you breathing them in.
Can I Remove Asbestos?
You are allowed to remove a certain amount of asbestos yourself. In New South Wales, as long as you take the right safety precautions, you can remove a maximum of 10 square metres of bonded asbestos. For larger amounts, you must either consult an asbestos removal specialist or obtain a NSW SafeWork licence yourself. This requires that you complete a training program either with TAFE or a registered training organisation.
Any loose or friable asbestos must be removed by a qualified asbestos removalist and cannot be removed by the homeowner.
Non-friable asbestos (also known as bonded asbestos) means that the asbestos fibres in the product are held within a solid matrix (e.g. cement in asbestos cement sheeting) and are less likely to become airborne, unless the product is damaged or has deteriorated
Friable Asbestos is any material containing asbestos in the form of a powder or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry.
The NSW Government DIY Safe contains information about the hazards and risks that home renovators may face from a range of chemicals and materials, including asbestos.
You can also use the Asbestos Safety & Eradication Agency’s disposal database to locate your closest asbestos disposal facility.
Most insurance policies will not take responsibility for any work relating to asbestos. It is important to be aware of this and remember that as a DIY renovator or non-licensed removalist, you could be liable to pay very expensive clean-up costs.
The main things to remember when it comes to DIY asbestos removal include:
– Notify neighbours – it’s their health at risk too.
– Prepare the work site first – lay heavy builders plastic down first so that particles and asbestos can be easily folded up, taped and stored securely before disposal.
– Wear personal protection equipment – don’t skimp.
– Don’t use power tools – these will release asbestos fibres into the air.
– Keep work area wet – this will keep asbestos dust down.
– Seal off areas – such as children’s play areas, inside buildings etc.
– Secure – place removed asbestos sheeting on plastic. Double warp and secure with tape. Dampen all asbestos waste and double wrap in plastic and tape. Use 200um thick plastic sheeting or bags; these must not be made from recycled materials or re-used for any other purpose. Clearly label as asbestos waste.
– Clean up – dispose of coveralls and masks. Don’t use household vacuum cleaners to suck up asbestos dust.
– Disposal – dispose of all asbestos waste at an approved landfill site. It is illegal to reuse or dump asbestos waste anywhere else.
Do’s and Don’ts For The Homeowner
– Do leave undamaged asbestos-containing materials alone.
– Do keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos, including limiting children’s access to any materials that may contain asbestos.
– Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material.
– Do have removal and major repair done by people trained and qualified in handling asbestos. It is highly recommended that sampling and minor repair also be done by a trained and accredited asbestos professional.
– Don’t dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos.
– Don’t saw, sand, scrape, or drill holes in asbestos-containing materials.
– Don’t use abrasive pads or brushes on power strippers to strip wax from asbestos flooring. Never use a power stripper on flooring that may contain asbestos.
– Don’t sand or try to level asbestos flooring or its backing. When asbestos flooring needs replacing install new floor covering over it, if possible.
– Don’t track material that could contain asbestos through the house. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop. If the material is from a damaged area or if a large area must be cleaned, call an asbestos professional.
If you’re in doubt about what to do with asbestos in your home, contact About the House for sound and reliable advice.